BLUF: Potential ace that needs to polish enormous raw stuff.
The Player: Gerrit Cole (RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates) – Cole turned down the Yankees over three years ago to attend UCLA and managed to make himself the number one overall pick in 2011. At times, Cole dominated the college ranks while at other times he posted more pedestrian numbers behind amazing raw stuff. He signed too late to make his official professional debut last year.
Body: Classic power pitcher’s body. Broad shoulders, strong torso, thick and powerful legs.
Makeup: Impressions of his competitiveness and makeup varied from start to start last year. Some scouts believe he lacks the fire to be a truly great pitcher, noting he has a tendency to pack it in when things don’t go his way. Needs to prove mental toughness on the mound but is still young with plenty of time to do just that.
Delivery/Mechanics: Much smoother than in high school. Deliberate and balanced through his windup. Gives hitters a peak of the ball behind his back, losing some deception as a result. Will show good extension out front but cuts himself off at times, coming up a little short and not following through. Good drive off back leg taking some stress off his arm.
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Wind-up): High – 101, Low – 92, Average – 95-96, Grade – 70/80
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Stretch): High – 99, Low 92, Average 95-96, Grade – 70/80
Fastball (FB) Movement: Has explosive life on 4-seamer when he doesn’t overthrow it. Can get a little straight when he reaches back for more but pure velo can overcome this most of the time. Hasn’t developed ability to manipulate the ball at lower velocities but really hasn’t needed to either. Grade – 50/60
Overall Fastball: Outstanding velocity. Could sit as an 80-pitch in the future. Has toyed with a 2-seam FB that has some sink and run on it and if that comes it could be unhittable in the 92-95 range. Potential elite pitch with minor refinement. Grade – 70/80
Slider (SL): Throws it very hard with outstanding bite. Generates foolish swings with plus-plus two-plane bite. Must improve ability to keep it down in the zone. Already understands how to use it as a chase pitch to both righties and lefties. Not much room to o much more to the pitch. Grade – 70/70
Change-up (CH): Started throwing in college. Doesn’t always maintain arm speed and has a tendency to guide it to the plate rather than trusting the grip. Has some fade when he’s throwing it well. Still a work in progress but flashes as a nice third pitch. Grade – 40/50
Control: Throws a lot more strikes after three years in college but will still lose the zone. Loses it most frequently when he falls in love with the radar gun and tries to blow hitters away. Needs to trust himself and throw strikes. Raw stuff is good enough to miss bats and get outs in the strike zone. Grade – 40/60
Command: Not really a part of his game right now and may never be. Will flash ability to paint the outside corner and elevate the FB when he wants to. Doesn’t show consistent willingness to work inside on hitters, which would be a huge help for him. Grade – 30/40
Summation: Some of the best raw stuff in the minor leagues. Can dominate inexperienced hitters by just blowing it by them and feeding him his filthy SL. Needs to learn how to pitch and utilize different parts of the strike zone better. Questions about his competitiveness on the mound can’t be ignored until he goes out and disproves them. Pure ceiling is that of a number one starter but he’ll fall short of that without some kind of command. Still learning the nuances of the game such as controlling runners and fielding his position but those should come fairly quickly once he starts working on them more heavily.
Relative Risk: High. He’s close to the big leagues but his lack of command and character questions leave his risk level elevated.
Future: To date the Pirates have pointed toward High-A Bradenton as his likely 2012 starting point. He could reach Double-A in extremely short order and it wouldn’t be entirely surprising he received a September call-up. His timetable is easily in the 2013 season and it would take some significant setbacks for him to be delayed beyond that. Cole has the potential to be one of the game’s elite starting pitchers in a few years.